CAP Update: July 2013, Sierra Club & Emerald Ridge suspended from Delaware City Refinery's Community Advisory Panel
Representatives from the Sierra Club and the Emerald Ridge neighborhood association were suspended from the PBF Energy Delaware City Refinery’s Community Advisory Panel on July 2, 2013. The suspension is pending an appeal of an air permit for the Delaware City Refinery’s crude oil transfer operation by the Sierra Club and Delaware Audubon Society. Sierra Club and Delaware Audubon argue that the refinery’s crude oil transfer operation violates the Coastal Zone Act.
PBF Energy’s website about the Community Advisory Panel states:
“We earn the right to work in your neighborhood by operating a safe and environmentally sound operation. . . At each of our refineries, we are members of the local Community Advisory Panel, (CAP). Community Advisory Panels are a way to improve dialogue between our refineries and their local communities and build industry credibility and community trust. CAPs are independent bodies supported by the facility. CAP members represent the fabric of each community and each member has made a commitment to meet with the management of the refinery on a regular basis to discuss issues of mutual interest. Community Advisory Panels allow members of the community to share their concerns and ask questions of plant management. It is a forum for open and honest dialogue between citizens and plant management.”
The Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP) was mandated by Governor Minner in 2001 after the disastrous fire and explosion at the Delaware City Refinery when it was owned by Motiva. Sierra Club and several other environmental organizations were asked to provide representatives, as were the surrounding homeowners associations. The purpose was to make the refinery more responsive to those living nearby and to have environmentalists with serious scientific credentials to keep the refinery honest.
I was appointed by the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club to serve on the CAP in 2001. I continued to serve when the refinery was owned by Premcor, and then by Valero. After the refinery was closed, the CAP ceased to exist.
When the refinery was bought by PBF Energy, they decided to form a CAP, now called the Community Advisory Panel. I was interviewed, or “screened” before being asked to join the new CAP.
As a member of the CAP I tried to monitor the refinery’s performance from two perspectives – their releases of chemicals into the air and water plus worker health and safety. I hold a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry and was employed as a Research Chemist and DuPont’s Experimental Station in Wilmington.
In 1964 I moved to Wisconsin for an academic career of 34 years. With a strong chemical safety background of DuPont, I was made Chair of the Safety Committee in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. When Federal safety standards were mandated, I became the Chemical Hygiene Officer until my retirement. We moved back to Delaware in 1998.
I have been a member of the American Chemical Society for over 50 years and am a member of the Chemical Health and Safety Division, a long term interest.
The appeal of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society has “suspended” my membership on the CAP. I am no longer able to inquire about the refinery emissions and problems.
I was a friend of the late Governor Russell Peterson and had great admiration for his Coastal Zone Act. After his defeat in his run for a second term, I invited him to visit our campus at the University of Wisconsin (Wisconsin was his home state) to explain the Coastal Zone Act to our students. He agreed to come and gave a very inspirational talk to our students.
The Coastal Zone Act was designed to protect our limited coastal areas from excess industrial development. I am shocked by the refinery’s willingness to violate the Coastal Zone Act with the “blessing” of DNREC and Governor Markell. This is especially shocking as I recall that Governor Peterson supported Governor Markell during his election campaign.
I support the positions of the Sierra Club in trying to protect the environment in a multitude of ways. We oppose the use of Canada’s “tar sands” oil deposits by this refinery to maximize their profitability, in spite of the dangers of shipping this flammable cargo by rail over 1,000 miles. We promote energy efficiency, solar and wind energy. We promote recycling and the support of local farming. The Sierra Club is concerned with the future habitability of Delaware and the world for generations not yet born.
The CAP is a voluntary organization that the refinery created to provide direct communications to local communities, like Emerald Ridge where I reside, close to the bulk transfer rail transfer and depot the refinery built in the Coastal Zone. The refinery has freely encouraged participation by community groups, local governing bodies, buildings and trades, emergency management groups, schools, politicians and economic development officials. The idea behind the CAP is to provide a free flow of information to these organizations so that the refinery would demonstrate they are a good corporate citizen to those groups that are directly affected by their operations. Emerald Ridge’s Board of Directors felt that I was best served to represent the community on the CAP and I accepted the position the refinery offered us.
Early on, this had proven to be quite a useful exchange and the refinery should be commended for reaching out to its neighbors. They have done a great job to involve the community and have opened up the plant to tours. They have been generous with their donations to the community as well. However, when certain issues are raised concerning environmental performance or business practices they appear to be reluctant to discuss or disclose. For example, they appeared to be reluctant to discuss the fish impingement at the antiquated intake screens built at the beginning of the plant in the late 1950s. When I and others began to raise questions regarding the crude feedstock switch from boat to rail delivery, the refinery management became more cautious in answering these concerns.
I had inquired about a possible Coastal Zone Act (“CZA”) issue regarding the transfer of bulk product to Paulsboro and was told that they had no concerns about any CZA violation. I had inquired as to what their upper end distribution limits would be to points outside of Delaware in terms of transferring crude by rail to barge and they would only talk to the 45,000 bpd they have asked for as that is the maximum they could deliver to Paulsboro. I asked if they would have the ability to grow that business to other entities including any possible PBF future acquisitions (they are in acquisition mode) and they would not give an answer to any hypotheticals.
I began to inquire about their Master Limited Partnership they are forming for their mid-stream rail assets. My concern is that the MLP would assume ownership of the logistics business of crude rail to barge through an entity that the investment community in NY anticipates would be spun off to their shareholders. I even mentioned the entities that were created in that regard and appeared in recent SEC filings from PBF. No answers were forthcoming.
There is a lot of angst in the community regarding this projected rail traffic as witnessed by a recent public meeting at the refinery held at a local school, so much so that two local legislators, Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore, passed a resolution in their respective bodies to request that the refinery help with efforts for train noise abatement through establishing additional quiet zones and looking for traffic crossing reporting. When asked about this Resolution at a recent CAP meeting, refinery management expressed their frustration with it. I noted this frustration in my meeting notes and in those same notes, I supported the refinery’s contention that perhaps the resolution should have been more directed to Norfolk Southern than the refinery.
Despite the refinery claims of open and honest community discourse, they had attempted to limit the information of what came out of their CAP meetings by requesting the CAP members to only report bullet points that the refinery and the CAP members would “vote” to limit themselves before leaving the meeting. I, and others, thought that to be nonsense. This concern for developing bullet points sprung out of a conversation I had with a local reporter where I mentioned I served on the CAP and, once the article was published, some CAP members reportedly were upset that I appeared to be a mouthpiece for the Panel and speaking for them (I did not hear this directly from any member nor was it expressed at any meeting by any member, just reported to me by the refinery’s outsourced communication team leader). This “new rule” of bullet points seemed to me to be a form of censorship and I simply told the refinery management I would no longer state that I was on the CAP whenever I spoke to area reporters on my industry knowledge of the facility. I would simply render a personal opinion as President of Delaware Audubon.
As Representative Longhurst had lived in Emerald Ridge and had recruited me to the Emerald Ridge Board of Directors, I had continued to provide my personal notes from these meetings to the Emerald Ridge Board along with my two local representatives and State Senator Bryan Townsend (his district has rail concerns) who had known of my notes and requested to be included on them. Unfortunately, my notes were passed back to the refinery management who proceeded to use those distributed notes as a reason to insist on a vote of my suspension from the CAP until such time as this appeal concludes and my re-instatement can be re-evaluated. It’s my personal opinion that the continuous questions I have raised about the following business practices – their bulk transfer of rail-delivered crude oil upriver to Paulsboro and other possible river destinations; their possible CZA issues regarding this program; their receipt of pollution emission reduction credits given to them for job creation around the rail business by Governor Markell and the Delaware Economic Development Office and their economic value; and finally their business purpose in creating a Master Limited Partnership in spinning off their rail logistics business – were such that the refinery desired to have me removed from the CAP. While I welcome the refinery’s open meetings with community members and area business representatives, I don’t welcome any censorship limiting the conveyance of my opinions to my constituency, including my own legislators that serve my community. As a direct result of being suspended, my community will be deprived of pertinent information on refinery business practices that could have a direct impact on us.